Context: U.S has urged India to relax India’s ban on hydroxychloroquine tablets so that the drug can be used to treat America’s COVID-19 patients.
- A day earlier, India’s Directorate General of Foreign Trade had prohibited export of the anti-malarial drug, which the U.S considered as a game-changer in the battle against the novel coronavirus.
- Brazil has also urged India to lift the ban on hydroxychloroquine as India is one of the global leaders in the production of the drug .
- It is a medication used to prevent and treat malaria in areas where malaria remains sensitive to chloroquine.
- This medication is also used, usually with other medications, to treat certain auto-immune diseases (lupus, rheumatoid arthritis) when other medications have not worked or cannot be used.
- It is taken via the oral route.
- It is sold under the brand name Plaquenil among others.
- It is on the World Health Organization's List of Essential Medicines, the safest and most effective medicines needed in a health system.
- It is also being studied as an experimental treatment for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
Utility with respect to COVID 19
- The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) recommends the use of hydroxychloroquine as a prophylactic (preventive care) for asymptomatic healthcare workers and contacts of people who have been infected by the virus.
- The ICMR’s decision on wider use of the drug will depend on further research.
- On a global level, a study by Chinese researchers, in February, for instance, showed that the drug speeded up the recovery of COVID-19 patients who had suffered pneumonia.
- Experiments on the drug have also yielded promising results in France.
- Moreover some of the early naysayers of the drug, including the US Food and Drug Administration, have now come around to recommending its use in emergency situations.
- Hydroxychloroquine as a COVID-19 palliative, by all accounts, seems to be a work in progress.
- In a world embroiled in a grim struggle against COVID-19, reports of the early success of the drug have generated hope especially in the US, the country hit hardest by the pandemic.
- The US president’s request is reportedly on the table of the high-level Group of Ministers (GoM) that reviews, monitors and evaluates the country’s COVID-19 response activities.
- The GoM headed by Union Minister of Defence Rajnath Singh must take into account the interests of all stakeholders in the country before arriving at a decision on relaxing the export ban.
- In such a situation, it is critical that India’s decision on the US request be an informed and considered one.